Katrina Trumps Softwood Dispute In Discussion By US-Canada Chiefs

Posted on Saturday, September 03 at 11:00 by jensonj
Bush said New Orleans suffered more damage than New York did in the Sept. 11 attacks, and promised a government recovery effort of unprecedented scale for the storm-ravaged city and the surrounding Gulf Coast. Wilkins had been scheduled to meet later in the day with International Trade Minister Jim Peterson to discuss the lumber dispute, which has cost Canadian lumber companies more than $4.1 billion (U.S.) in punitive tariffs. The meeting was later canceled. The two countries have been at loggerheads over Canadian lumber exports for two decades. But recent decisions by the World Trade Organization -- in favor of punitive tariffs on Canadian lumber -- and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which favored Canada, have angered both sides amid fears of a trade war. "We know this isn't the time to be talking about softwood lumber," said Jacquie LaRocque, a spokesperson for Peterson. "Canada's focus right now needs to be support for our friends south of the border in light of Katrina." Wilkins said both countries must return to the negotiating table to avoid souring relations over an issue that represents a small percentage of trade between the world's largest trading partners. Wilkins, appointed recently by Bush to become the 21st American ambassador to Canada, was speaking at a newsmaker breakfast at the National Press Club of Canada in the federal capital. He resigned from the South Carolina House of Representatives, where he served for 25 years, to accept the post, which he took up in late June. The WTO on Monday issued a confidential ruling to both sides that said it intended to issue a report in October supporting the United States, prompting Ottawa to declare it would consider retaliatory duties on U.S. imports. "Talk of trade war and retaliation make good copy, but they don't make good sense," Wilkins said, adding that retaliatory tariffs by Canada against U.S. imports would harm both countries. "Friends negotiate, they don't retaliate." Canada is enjoying a large surplus in its trade with the United States, he noted, adding softwood lumber exports were booming despite tariffs because of a strong U.S. housing market. Canada captures 34 percent of America's lumber market, he said. "Both sides have much to lose if we fail to negotiate and much to gain if we do," he said. "We want both sides back at the negotiating table as soon as possible." http://www.casperstartribune.net/articles/2005/09/01/news/regional/39d023e2fb6ff2678725706f00709944.txt [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on September 5, 2005]

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